It's 8:58 a.m. in Knox City. The Baty Bot's rolling down the school hallway. The principal's shaking his head. "Fifty years from now," Mr. Moeller says, "we might just have a bunch of robots walking around here, and everybody will stay at home."
"But I don't think it'll be a good thing," says Ms. Martinez. "Luckily Lyndon's a good kid, but other kids with robots? I don't know...."
"It's the best thing that ever happened to him," says Mr. Moeller. "It's made everything so much more positive in the whole school."
The bot halts. The door to the science room is shut. A horn to honk at moments like this, or better still, arms and hands for the robot, not to mention a male robotic voice and a zoom lens and swivel on the camera: They're all recommendations that Lyndon has passed on to the manufacturer. All coming soon to a robot near you.
Mr. Collins opens the door. "Sorry, Lyndon," he says, "but there's no class today. Almost everybody's at the district track meet."
Which leaves the bot alone in the room, and Lyndon with time to muse. "If the bot had turbo-boosters, I could run track," he says. The bottle's open now. The genie's roaming. "Sometimes I think about my robot alone in school at night. What if, when it has hands, it goes into the classrooms while no one's there and changes all my grades to 100s? And I've thought about what it would be like for the robot to go on a date with a girl. Then I've wondered if there's a fire at school, will anyone save me?" No, Sheldon has assured him, they'll use you to smash the windows so they can escape.
Lyndon can sense where it's all going. He knows how seductive it'll be one day for people to sit in front of a computer—while our avatars get our groceries, attend our business meetings or wait in line at the DMV—and monitor split screens, controlling multiple interactions, multiple realities. And the next inevitable step, once we all grasp that the components of the robot's body are more reliable than our kidneys, livers and hearts, once we begin downloading and digitizing our preferences and memories and genetic coding....
For now, he's our trailblazer. So tell us, Kid, what life's like out there on the frontier, where flesh becomes data, body becomes bot.
"First of all, I'm not a Trail Blazer.... I'm a Dallas Maverick." He grins, immensely pleased with himself. "But I know that people will want to do this. They'll think they can escape the real world. But once you escape it, you'll start to want it. It sounds weird. I gained my independence through the robot. If you have bad health, it gives you back your self-worth, so you feel like a real person, not just a sick person. But for a healthy person to do this? I don't know. There's nothing like actually being there. Really seeing and feeling. I miss the feeling of being around other people and just the atmosphere of being in places. You're trying to be there but you're not there. It still feels like a video game, doing it this way. I don't get the whole thing. I get about 60 percent.
"Some people will want to stay at home in their comfort zone. But when you stay in your comfort zone too much, you don't feel that tension or stress of something unexpected happening. This isn't such a great idea. Don't do it if you're healthy, because you'll lose so much of your life. And what about when it becomes robot-to-robot?"